If you aren’t into dated jokes and memes, I’ve got some bad news for you, it’s pretty much going to be like this forever. But, yeah, I’m not burying the lede here. That statement is the thesis that I’m going to try to convince you of today. As you probably know, Flesh and Blood has been absolutely wild as of late. Recently, I wrote an article about the third major spike in the FAB market, and then three days later we had another one. A few months ago, I thought FAB would level off and we’d see Heart retrace to like $1200, which is, of course, laughable at this stage (though I still think Tunic is going to beat it on a long timeline, and if you can sell a Heart and move into four or five Tunics, you’re crazy not to take that deal). So, while alpha CFs are certainly not done with their upward movement, the price tags associated with them are increasingly limiting the amount of people who can meaningfully engage with that segment of the market. For people who want to try to make money off of FAB, the question is, “what can I actually afford?” And, as time has gone by, that space has increasingly shrunk. So I bring you a new proposition: non-foil, first edition Majestics are investable.
A Bit of Background
Before we dive into my argument for non-foil (let’s use “NF”) Majestics, I want to chart the trajectory of cards that the community has recognized as investable. I came to the game in July of 2020, so I was almost a year behind the very early adopters, but I was still early enough to open $65 boxes of Welcome to Rathe (which, honestly, already feels incredibly cool to be able to say). So, I’m going to start with that point. When I jumped in, Eye, Heart, and Tunic were the major pieces. One of my “big” moves was buying a Tunic for $375 during my second week in the game, which was my “I’m in for real” point. At the time, the class Ls were recognized as cards that would likely accrue value over time, though they were still generally less than $100 apiece. As the next couple weeks went by, the big thing of note for me was rainbow foil Enlightened Strike moving up to $150. There were a couple people who saw long term potential in these and the market was responding to their acquisitions. Prices in general started to tick up as WTR supply was drying up, and then the first catalyzing event occurred: the WTR and ARC out of print announcement landed, and prices spiked immediately. Overnight sealed WTR and ARC went from $80 boxes to an investable commodity. Over the next couple weeks, foils, particularly Ms started to get snatched up and that $150 foil estrike started to look quaint as they rose to $300. Because it seems like an opportune time to record this, I’m going to make an aside here to note that I recently sold one of the two foil estrikes that I opened and turned it into two cases of CRU –we’ll see how smart or dumb that looks over the coming years.
Around the time of the OOP announcement, we started to see new areas of speculation and investment open up. This next bit is incredibly self-indulgent, but that’s what happens when you’re up late writing your second article in a 24 hour period and feeling bold after your third drink. Anyway, I feel like, when we look back on FAB finance years down the road, if I will ever have a claim to fame in that history, it will be that, as far as I know, I was the first person to publicly champion cold foil commons back when they were $2-5. Now, granted, at the time, I was thinking that they’d be $10 in several months and would continue to accrue value over time. In my wildest dreams, I wasn’t ready for them to get to the current $70-150 in four months (For the curious, I have yet to sell a single cold foil common from what I’d consider a fairly respectable position and have still been buying more as recently as last week). To me, this was the point where things started to explode. People began to look for non-obvious (cold foil Ls and Fs) investments.
If cold foil commons were my clever callout, I absolutely underestimated the value people would place on rainbow foil first edition cards, which have been the emergent investable over the past month or so. In that window, we’ve seen the top ARC and WTR foil Ms reach four figure pricing. People are buying up lots of first edition WTR and ARC foil commons and rares (often sight unseen, just based on a breakdown of cards per rarity/set) at upwards of $3-4.5 per card for mixed lots. Then, when we got our most recent spikes, we saw the same norms applied to the CRU CFs in which things like cold foil Crater Fist went from $40 to $300 in a blink. I see a lot of people lamenting the missed opportunity for getting in on CF Ms and Rs a couple weeks ago, but that ship has sailed, and there’s no benefit in mourning your missed potential profits. You have two useful options: You can either buy in at current prices with the assumption that there are still long term gains to be made, and/or you can look for other horizons. And that brings us back to the topic at hand:
Non-foil First Edition Majestics are Investable
I’m going to keep saying it until people realize it’s true, but don’t worry, I’ll present an actual case for my claim. So, I think my record is actually pretty good on financial picks so far, with the aforementioned rainbow foil first edition being my big miss. I was middling on them, under the assumption that most of them wouldn’t really meaningfully separate from unlimited rainbow foils in the short term. So, knowing that I whiffed that one, I sat down to try to piece out where my assumptions had been wrong so that I could do better going forward. While there are many factors in play, at the end of the day, I think my mistake was assuming that players wouldn’t care enough about the fact that they were from the first print run if the unlimited ones had the same art – after all, we “knew” that the cold foils were the big deal, not the rainbow foils. However, despite knowing the math, I just didn’t respect how rare ARC and WTR foil Ms are. While reflecting on that, I realized that I should assess the rest of the card pool to see if I was missing any other similar cards.
This is where things get wild. Look, yinz, first edition Majestics are scarce, like really scarce. We’re about to go down a long winding path of information collection and math, and some of it is necessarily based on assumptions drawn from the best data available to me. I will endeavor to highlight what is fact, what is inference, and what is total speculation, but it’s on you to determine if you buy into my assumptions. Anyway, here we go!
Our starting point for everything is establishing a print run for the WTR and ARC first edition. The community has long based its assumptions about these print runs on a post by James White that showed part of Magic’s Power 9 stacked up against the WTR portion of what people have taken to calling the Icy 12 (at least that’s the nomenclature I’m throwing my lot in with, as I’ve clearly staked out my position on not calling them the “Power 12”).
So how does all of that help us? Well the number of Alpha Black Lotuses is a known quantity (1100 – see this really spectacular reddit post). There is no confirmed pull rate for Fs, but the generally accepted rate is 1:40 boxes. We use this to calculate the number of boxes: If a Heart is twice as rare as an Alpha Lotus, we know that there are 550 of them out there. If they appear at a rate of 1:40 boxes that means that there were 22k boxes (this was semi-confirmed by James during the Alpha Investments Q&A where we were told that the community estimates on the print run were in the ballpark). Because all other rarities have their pull rate listed on the FAB homepage, we can calculate the number of each that would exist in 22k boxes. That gets us WTR. We can get ARC and the initial information for CRU based on a key Facebook post that I’ve shared before.
This relatively short post is massively valuable to us. It tells us that first edition ARC and WTR are the same size (our 22k figure), and it tells us that wave one of CRU was also the same size. So that squares away ARC very neatly for us (it is criminal that Eye is valued below Heart); however, CRU is a little more complicated. CRU has a second wave. Now, there is pretty much no info that I’ve seen that gives any idea of how big CRU wave two is, so this is all speculation. My firm assumption is that CRU wave two is, at most, the same size as wave one. The reason I believe this so strongly is that, per the post above, CRU wave two was ordered before the first spike occurred. Take a moment to consider the implications of that – at the point where LSS had to make the call on how much additional CRU to order, WTR was still readily available at prices as low as $65 a box. Additionally, we know from the printing decisions around Monarch, capacity at Cartamundi is limited, and CRU wave two was printed alongside both Unlimited releases. Taking all of that into consideration, I feel like a doubling of their initial order is the upper range of prudence. It’s entirely possible that half as much or less product was ordered, but I like to err to the side of caution, so we’ll assume 44k boxes of first edition CRU were produced and we can all be pleasantly surprised if it turns out that number is actually 33k or less.
Alright, math time! For ARC and WTR we assume 22k boxes. We know from the Collector’s Center that that Majestics appear at a rate of 1 per 12 packs, and there are 24 packs in a box, so that’s 2 Ms per box. That gets us 44k Ms. There are 10 unique Ms in each of these sets so that yields 4400 of each. Really think about that. As a point of reference, there were 3000 of each rare in Magic’s Beta Edition. Obviously there are fewer surviving Beta rares than that initial 3000 figure, but here’s the thing, a lot of beta rares are utter trash. No one has played an Animate Wall since 1993 as anything but a joke, but a played Beta copy still sells for $40 or more. Meanwhile, most of the first edition Ms in FAB are actual good cards that you want to play, and some of them will likely remain so for years to come (Command and Conquer, anyone?). To reframe this, there are about 1500 playsets of each first edition M in the world. That’s it. 1500 people can possibly own a playset. Well, less than 1500 because I personally own more than a playset of all of them, and I’m certain that I am by no means the biggest holder of theses – Saint Hung (aka the guy who kicked off the third catalyzing event in the FAB market) likely owns the top position on a quite a few, if not all, just on the basis of the amount of sealed WTR he has. (I’ll be curious if he decides to go for a graded set of perfect NF Ms, it seems doable given the population, but might still be non-trivial even with his supply just because of how finicky alpha corners are.)
At the point when I did this math and then sat down to actually think it through, there were still alpha class Ms chilling in store inventories at $12-15. I say “were” because I bought the vast majority of them with the exception of a couple from stores that had a quantity limit (as a rule, I never make multiple accounts to try to skirt a store’s limits, but I will come back for more if they sit there for a few days). First edition WTR and ARC generics are already at a floor of $60-100. I’ve been buying those up too, and I’m not the only one. Two days ago, I was in the middle of working out a deal for a playset of estrikes at $100 apiece when someone else swooped in and offered the seller $150 (Note: I have absolutely zero issues with a seller taking a better offer from a third party during negotiations. All I ask is that I get a chance to match or beat them). If you believe in FAB as a game that can make it to the five year point, the ten year point, or as the game that can become the fourth pillar of the CCG industry, then ARC and WTR Ms, even in their NF versions, are very special cards, and not valued highly enough.
Wait, What About CRU?
Oh wow, things got kind of intense there! We’re already over 2000 words, so I guess this will be the longest piece I’ve written to date because I’m not going to leave you hanging. As noted above, I and others have started making moves on the first edition Majestic market for ARC and WTR, but because FAB is generous, there are yet more opportunities; enter CRU. Now, the first thing to establish with CRU is that a CRU M is not the same as an ARC or WTR M. They occur at a rate of 1:4 packs, so three times as often as their older WTR/ARC siblings. But they have the added wrinkle of short printings. Per LSS, “There are many majestic equipments in Crucible of War, as well as a very special card, Gorganian Tome (which has the keyword Legendary). To balance supply and demand for these cards, they have been intentionally short-printed, appearing slightly less than half as often as other majestics in Crucible of War.”
So let’s take a stab at mathing these out. Using our 44k box number from earlier, we get 1.056 million packs. With the 1:4 pull rate, that yields 264k Ms. There are 36 different Ms in total, of which, 10 are short printed. Based on the short prints appearing “slightly less than half as often” as normal Ms, we get roughly 8550 copies of a NF CRU M, and (pay attention here) about 4200 copies of each short printed M (or about 4300, if we go with the “Short printed. Features 50% as often as normal majestics” note in the Collectors Center and drop the “slightly less” from the article). That would make the short printed Ms rarer than ARC/WTR Ms, and if wave two of cru was only 11k boxes instead of 22k, we’re talking around 3150 of each, which is almost spot on for Magic’s Beta rares.
So, much like WTR/ARC Majestics, people have absolutely slept on these. I spent several hours yesterday buying up $10-14 CRU NF equipment. Again, I tend to be conservative in my evaluations, but I have an incredibly hard time not seeing these as significantly underpriced. Even if the wave two print run was much larger than I’ve seen anyone estimate (in general, people seem to think the 44k box number is high), these are scarce. Let’s say it was actually 66k boxes, that’s still only 6300 of each short printed M. With no CRU unlimited planned, and Monarch announced as “306 new cards + Cracked Bauble,” it seems likely that the earliest we’d see a reprint of any of these cards is in Kingdoms, which means months of time where the NF Ms are not only first edition printings, but also the only copies available of these cards. So even if you don’t buy into my argument on scarcity as it compares to early Magic, there is still a case to be made on sheer usability and limited supply, at least for the next several months.
Note: all of the calculations I just made assume that the M rate does not include foil Ms. That is to say, 1:12 or 1:4 Ms means a NF M specifically. If it includes both foil and NF Ms, then the NF Ms are actually even rarer than the assumptions above. If someone has confirmation on how this shakes out or something that demonstrates that any of my math is wrong, please get in contact with me and I’ll make the relevant adjustments.
UPDATE (12/26/20): After some more digging, I realized I had skipped past the table on the Inside the Pack article for CRU, which notes that the rates listed for Ms are specifically non-foils.
With the numbers above, it should be clear that foil CRU Ms, even for non-short printed cards are quite rare, and we’re already starting to see movement on those. #wall-street began buying up foil Spoils of War a couple weeks ago and, at the moment, the cheapest one on any of the major US sites is a $60 shipped ebay auction with 20 bids and 9 hours left. There are likely still some quality CRU foil Ms that are relatively cheap floating around, but the window is likely closing on those in the next few days.
CRU boxes are currently $450 on ebay and $425 on TCG player. Some retailers have them at $400 and private sales of $350-380 are still taking place, though those prices seem to be drying up a bit. If other people also believe my assessment of the NF and RF CRU Ms, one or both of the following will happen: People will start opening sub-$400 CRU boxes because the EV (expected value) is higher than the box cost. Box prices will climb. I think that we’ll have some of both, especially with people who are hunting Shiyana or Shard deciding to roll the dice on boxes with idea that they can recoup most of their costs in singles (or make a profit if they hit a CF M). I find that people are especially likely to do this if they bought those boxes for substantially less than their current market value, which isn’t logical per say, but we’re not always logical beings. While I only have Magic as a reference, I have never seen a sustained period of time where the EV of opening a box remained above the cost of the box. For in print sets, this means prices of singles will be driven down, but for out of print sets, it means box prices will climb because there are an ever-diminishing amount of them. Remember, barring shenanigans, you can turn a sealed box into singles, but a pile of singles can’t become a sealed box.
I’ve seen several people predicting a sell off of sealed CRU at $500, and I tend to agree that we’ll see a bit of that. $500 is a sort of breakpoint number in people’s heads, but I don’t think that’s the ceiling, even in the next couple months. It may be a short term plateau, but with singles prices rising, box prices will either follow or people will open them. Remember ARC and WTR sealed product are still actively climbing, and while there is more CRU than either of those, hopefully the numbers I’ve presented in this article paint a picture of the probable scarcity of these cards. You can make your own call on how many CRU boxes were printed, but the numbers on some of these cards are still incredibly low. Given that, I’m revising my pre-MON sealed CRU price upward to $600-700 -four months is a long time.
Phew, that was a lot, if you followed me the whole way to the end here, thanks! I know this was a bit tedious, so I’ll reward you with a tip on picking your CRU targets. Look at a few of the New Zealand singles sellers and check out their M prices. Then look at US sellers. Until it proves false, I operate on the assumption that if New Zealand, far and away the top competitive meta for the time being, thinks a card is worth more than the US thinks it is, then NZ is probably right, and you should buy those cards.
*Header Image – Meganetic Shockwave by Sam Yang